A Horse, Of Course - Stop Coggins Slaughter!

Lady - EIA victim? No - EIA positive, Coggins victim. This healthy mare lived many years in close proximity with other horses, none of which tested positive for EIA. She was euthanized.

By Don Blazer

The chances your horse is going to die from Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) are slim and none.
The chances your horse is going to die from a Coggins test are very good.
EIA is a viral disease characterized by a hemolytic anemia, depression, intermittent fever and sometimes edema.
Do horses die from it? Sometimes, but rarely.
I asked dozens of veterinarians if they had ever seen a horse die of EIA.
None had. I've been a horse owner and trainer for more than 40 years, and I've never even seen a horse seriously ill from EIA.
Ask the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) how many horses die from EIA and the answer is "we don't have any idea." Yet it is the Code of Federal Regulations, Diseases in Horses, which provides individual states the opportunity to adopt a quarantine or euthanize (slaughter) means to eradicate the disease.
And most states are doing just that---quarantining and killing useful, apparently healthy horses which test positive for EIA. Has there been eradication of the disease over the last 30 years? Of course not!
Is there an EIA epidemic? No.
Is the disease easily transmitted? No.
Is Equine Infectious Anemia infectious? Not as horsemen normally think of when using the word infectious. EIA must be transmitted by a vector--biting insect or unsterile injection technique.
What are the chances an infected horse is going to infect another horse?
About 1 in 6,000,000 if both horses are close together in the middle of a swarm of flies who are constantly being interrupted while trying to feed on the blood of the positive horse. A fly which has not finished feeding on the infected horse, has blood on it, then bites the uninfected horse may possibly, but not likely infect the healthy horse.
What happens if the horse gets EIA? He probably lives a long and useful life sometimes becoming a little anemic, sometimes a little depressed, sometimes running a fever. He may experience the symptoms numerous times during his lifetime, but the owner will most often not even notice. In fact, USDA surveys find the problem so insignificant that more than 50 per cent of horseowners didn't even know of EIA, although nearly all horseowners had heard of the Coggins test.
If the horse develops an acute case of EIA he will, within a period as short as 30 days, run a high temperature, experience depression, weakness and a rapid pulse. Other signs of the disease include discharges from the nose and eyes, heavy perspiration and colic. The horse will recover or die within five to six weeks.
How many horses die and how many survive acute EIA? Impossible to tell, as most acute cases are euthanized, never given a chance to recover.
Horses with subacute or chronic cases often suffer some weight loss and depression with a fever. They usually recover and appear normal until another attack, frequently brought on by stress. While these horses are usually anemic, most often they live useful lives, and do not die from EIA. However, once they test positive, they are most frequently slaughtered. (Quarantine regulations are usually impossible for the average horse owner.)
Most Coggins positives are "inapparent carriers" which don't show any signs, and don't seem to be infective to other horses. In fact, it is not known under what conditions such a horse could become infective. Inapparent carriers never die from the disease, but always die from the euthanasia solution.
So if the disease isn't a major threat to the life of horses, isn't easily transmitted, and isn't keeping horses from living long and useful lives, why are we killing them?
Money. Testing for EIA (primarily the Coggins test) is a $314 million dollar business in the United States. Veterinarians probably net about $10 per test, and testing laboratories net about $10 per test. No individual is getting rich, but it is easy, it's fast, and it is income.
Expect more testing. Now every state requires a Coggins test if you are going to transport a horse into the state. Do the states check on every horse that enters the state? Of course not.
Does more testing mean more money for the labs and vets? Sure. Does it mean government agencies will have to put on more staff and have bigger budgets? You bet!
Do you think state agencies that admit off the record there is little threat to horses and the problem is insignificant will say so on the record? Not on your life. (Arizona has put down about 3 positive horses per year for the last 10 years. There is no record of how many horses died of EIA, probably because none did.)
Do you think veterinarians will call for an end to the unnecessary slaughter of horses?

Having asked the questions, I hope a lot of horsemen, a lot of veterinarians and a lot of laboratories get mad. But before the vets and labs yell, they better come up with some cold, hard figures.
When the horsemen yell because they are tired of having government kill their horses, maybe the noise will wake up the politicians who have allowed this disaster in the first place. (Politicians write bad laws, then fail to correct them because they are too lazy, too self-serving, too ignorant of the facts and too unwilling to do their job. Unfortunately for horses and horsemen, it will take politicians (if you can get them to do the right thing) to put a stop to the bureaucrats--state veterinarians and agricultural departments--who are building their empires and retirement on a no-fact crisis.
Isn't that the way so many make their money--cry crisis, grab the bucks.
Horsemen, you'd better start riding today; one of these days your horse could be marked for death--Coggins positive.
I have had lots of e-mail in support of my article on EIA, which is on the internet, www.donblazer.com. Most email is in favor of stopping the slaughter. Most of those writing have asked, "But what can we do?"
So that is the question for this month.

What can you do?
Help me gather information and help me spread the word. If you would take the time to call your state representative or your state senator and ask them if they are even aware of the law which mandates the quarantine or slaughter of horses, and then send me the name of the legislator, his or her answer, and the name of your state's veterinarian, I can use the information in upcoming columns.
I will thank you in upcoming columns as "those who have helped" without using your names, unless you want me to.
This battle to stop government from killing our horses simply to generate income for special interests is not going to be easy or short. I want government to recognize a new special interest group--horsemen.

Thanks for asking,
Don Blazer

For more information:
Please feel free to contact your Federal and State officials.
Don's website conveniently lists all the 50 states' click-on URLs at: http://www.donblazer.com/askdon/1100askdon.html

United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/

About the author:
Whatever horsemen do with horses, Don Blazer has probably done. He isn't one to sit on fences just talking. (His opinions don't sit on fences either.) He's trained and ridden everything from mustangs to Thoroughbreds, including western and English pleasure horses, reining horses, endurance racers and 300-yard sprinters. He's jumped horses, cut cattle, been through obstacles and around barrels. Don has taught training and horsemanship at five colleges, and he has traveled the world demonstrating training techniques. He's an adjunct faculty member of the Equine Science Department, Scottsdale Community College, teaching courses based on his books.

Don Blazer has contributed "how-to" training articles to most of the major horse publications and he is the author of Walter (A Horse, of Course) Spills the Oats, Natural Western Riding, Healthy Horses Seldom Burp, Training the Western Show Horse, Horses Don't Care About Women's Lib, Nine Secrets of Perfect Horsemanship and Make Money with Horses. He writes a weekly syndicated column, A Horse, Of Course, which appears nationally in both equine publications and general circulation newspapers. Look for Don Blazer's books in book, tack and Petsmart stores or at www.donblazer.com.

Horses trained by Don Blazer have won at English and western pleasure, western riding, jumping, dressage and reining, as well as both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred stakes races.

Today Don Blazer keeps busy writing, training and racing horses, and is often a guest speaker.

Copyright © 2000 by Don Blazer
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